Stoker (15)

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Review byMatthew Turner01/03/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Old Boy director Park Chan-wook's English language debut is a visually stunning, powerfully atmospheric and emotionally intense drama with a Hitchcock-inspired script, a tonne of clever references and a trio of terrific performances from Wasikowska, Kidman and Goode.

What's it all about?
Directed by Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Old Boy), Stoker is written by Wentworth Miller (Prison Break's Michael Scofield) and stars Mia Wasikowska as quietly serious teenager India Stoker, who's hit hard by the sudden death of her father (Dermot Mulroney), not least because it means she'll have to spend more time with her unstable mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman). However, their lives are both disrupted by the arrival at the funeral of the mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who neither of them previously knew existed.

As Charlie moves into the Stoker family home, he begins a flirtation with Evie, while clearly maintaining a side interest in India. And when India is attacked by local high school boy Whip (Beautiful Creatures' Alden Ehrenreich), Charlie comes to her rescue and the pair forge an increasingly dark and deadly bond.

The Good
Mia Wasikowska is excellent as India, her seemingly impassive face concealing a swirling vortex of emotion that rises to the surface in startling acts of violence, whether it's the sudden deployment of a sharp pencil to fend off a school bully or something much darker.

Nicole Kidman is equally good as Evie (this is a film that's all about surfaces cracking to reveal darkness beneath and the scene where she reveals her own emotional undercurrent is devastating), while Matthew Goode delivers his best performance to date as Uncle Charlie, disguising his lusty intentions with a thick layer of charm.

Park Chan-wook's direction is stylish and stunning throughout, courtesy of Chung Chung-hoon's sumptuous cinematography, some incredible sound design work and a fabulous score from Clint Mansell. It's also packed with delicious details, such as a spider that crawls along the floor and up India's stockinged leg or a wonderful moment where India peels a boiled egg and all the sounds are amplified on the soundtrack.

The Great
Miller's script is ostensibly a reworking of Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (hence ‘Uncle Charlie’ and the central relationship), but it's packed with clever references to everything from classic novels to various film genres (80s high school movies, 50s melodramas, film noir and so on), while at the same time making all those different elements blend together seamlessly. In addition, Park Chan-wook orchestrates a number of stand-out sequences, such as a decidedly non-Hitchcockian shower scene, a brilliantly staged piano duet and a cleverly edited, blackly comic flashback sequence involving a lawn mower and a sandpit.

Worth seeing?
Emotionally intense and powerfully atmospheric, Stoker has future cult movie stamped all over it, thanks to visually stunning direction, a fabulous soundtrack and excellent performances from all three leads. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Stoker (15)
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Content updated: 19/08/2018 09:10

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